JUNE 2017 – The 1st Transatlantic Research Project Meeting was held on June 29 and 30 organized by the Netherlands Heart Institute (NL-HI) in Utrecht, the Netherlands. In addition to Dutch cardiologists and researchers, there were many European participants in attendance.
The NL-HI is the unique collaboration platform of the Cardiology departments of all 8 academic medical centers in the Netherlands (AMC Amsterdam, Erasmus MC Rotterdam, LUMC Leiden, Maastricht UMC, Radboud UMC Nijmegen, UMC Groningen, UMC Utrecht and the VU Medical Center in Amsterdam) and is therefore also project leader of the 5-year Research Project of our PLN Foundation.
PLN in the spotlight
Thanks to a prominent place on the agenda, our PLN Foundation was able to present the PLN gene mutation to the assembled audience. During the opening and plenary session, our Chairman addressed the assembled audience of hundreds of researchers and substantially put the PLN genetic heart disease on everyone’s radar screen. On the second day, a parallel session was specially reserved for us with the hot topic “Curing PLN disease“. Of the 300 participants attending this congress, we were surprised to find a completely full session room with about 100 attendees and not even enough seating room for everyone! It is remarkable to see how scientists, both junior and senior, show that much interest in the PLN mutation. Our Chairman also opened this session challenging young talented researchers to find a curing “short cut” solution in addition to our 5-year PLN Research Project.
For the best “Curing PLN disease” idea, our Foundation was willing to offer a budget to support further in-depth research for the selected project. Dr. D. Sanoudou, a 15-year-experienced researcher in the gene mutation from Greece, also gave an in-depth presentation explaining what is known so far about the PLN mutation and what is still to be discovered.
Then followed 4 young researchers with a possible idea about an “out-of-the-box” solution for the PLN heart disease. After these pitches, Dr. L. Lai (Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine & Health from China) in turn gave a very interesting presentation about what is currently already possible in the field of genetic correction.
A possible curing method?
From the poll of attendees (38% of the votes) as well as from the PLN Foundation and NL-HI Committee, the pitch from Patricia van den Hoogen (UMC Utrecht, NL) over “Cardiac Inflammation in PLN-patients” was selected as best project being presented. During the plenary session with around 300 attendees in the event room, she was therefore awarded the budget from the PLN Foundation to conduct further field research based on her theory.
Upon myocardial ischemia *, the immune system becomes activated to clear dead cells and later switches to a more anti-inflammatory state to stimulate repair. However, in many patients, the balance between the pro- and anti-inflammatory statuses of the immune system is disrupted. These patients show inflammatory signs and large deposits of antibodies on healthy parts of the heart, which leads to even more damage.
In the search for a treatment, stem cells are of interest due to their immunosuppressive ** properties.
* Myocardial ischemia, or insufficient blood circulation, is a serious heart disorder caused by an artery obstruction.
** The ability to suppress the immune system.
Looking forward to hear her findings on this field research, we wish Patricia much success in this PLN project!